Optical Pyrometer

About optical pyrometer

The optical pyrometer is designed to measure temperatures where the peak radiation emission is in the red part of the visible spectrum, i.e. where the measured body glows a certain shade of red according to the temperature. This limits the instrument to measuring temperatures above 600C. The instrument contains a heated tungsten filament within its optical system. The current in the filament is increased until its color is the same as the hot body: under these conditions the filament apparently disappears when viewed against the background of the hot body. Temperature measurement is therefore obtained in terms of the current flowing in the filament. As the brightness of different materials at any particular temperature varies according to the emissivity of the material, the calibration of the optical pyrometer must be adjusted according to the emissivity of the target. Manufacturers provide tables of standard material emissivities to assist with this.

The inherent measurement inaccuracy of an optical pyrometer is 5C. However, in addition to this error, there can be a further operator-induced error of 10C arising from the difficulty in judging the moment when the filament 'just' disappears. Measurement accuracy can be improved somewhat by employing an optical filter within the instrument which passes a narrow band of frequencies of wavelength around 0.65 m corresponding to the red part of the visible spectrum.

The instrument cannot be used in automatic temperature control schemes because the eye of the human operator is an essential part of the measurement system. The reading is also affected by fumes in the path of sight. Because of these difficulties and its low accuracy, the optical pyrometer is being rapidly overtaken by hand-held radiation pyrometers in popularity, although the instrument is still widely used in industry for measuring temperatures in furnaces and similar applications.

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